17-Year-Old HK Teen Found: Suspected Accidental Wilderness Straying, Survives a Week on Stream Water

Following an intensive search that persevered through a No. 9 typhoon signal and severe black rainstorm conditions, Matthew Tsang Hin-chit, a 17-year-old forthcoming DSE candidate from Diocesan Boys’ School, was miraculously rescued.

After an arduous 8-day disappearance, he was discovered unharmed near a water source at Lo Shue Tin Hang in the Ma On Shan Country Park on October 11 at 2:15 PM. He was airlifted for immediate medical evaluation, fortuitously enduring no life-threatening conditions.

Matthew Tsang Hin-chit was discovered unharmed near a water source at Lau Shu Tan Hang in the vicinity of Ma On Shan Country Park on October 11 at 2:15 PM. (Photo: Hong Kong Fire Services Department)

Demanding Search and Rescue

The search and rescue team, composed of the fire department, police, and Civil Aid Service, continued their mission yesterday morning in the Ma On Shan Country Park. They discovered Matthew Tsang in the dense forest near Siu Lek Yuen in the Sai Kung District, specifically in the Lau Shui Heung and Lo Shue Tin area.

Over the course of several days of search and rescue operations, the department deployed 28 fire engines, 9 ambulances, 122 firefighters, and 24 paramedics, including a mountain rescue team. Additionally, the Civil Aid Service dispatched 50 personnel for the search in the past four days,” Assistant Division Commander Chow Cheuk-fung of the Fire Services Department revealed at a press conference yesterday.

The police pinpointed Ma On Shan Country Park as a key area through AI technology. Pictured is the park’s Ngong Ping Viewing Platform, taken on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. (Photo: Susu Cai)

The location was off the beaten path, about 100 meters from the main trail, requiring the team to navigate through the wilderness to reach him.

This operation involved analyzing various pieces of information, assisting in command, and formulating search and rescue strategies. Search dogs were also deployed, with personnel specifically visiting Matthew Tsang’s home to collect his clothing for scent identification,” stated Senior Station Officer Cheung Tin-yu of the mountain rescue team.

The search operation covered 10 square kilometers, encompassing areas such as Fa Sam Hang, Ngau Ngak Shan, and Mui Tsz Lam. Additionally, drones were deployed to capture over 10,000 photos, which were analyzed using AI image recognition to narrow the search area.

The red dot in the image represents the final location where Matthew was found. The lines of different colors represent the trails searched by the rescue personnel, while the individual boxed areas denote the locations where deep searches were conducted. (Image: Hong Kong Fire Services Department)
Land surveyor Lee Wai Pang captured over 1,000 drone photos in the Lo Shue Tin stream area the day before yesterday, with nearly 10 images revealing signs of Tsang’s presence. (Photo: Lee Wai Pang)
The Police Tactical Unit (PTU) conducted a search in the Mui Tsz Lam area of Sha Tin on October 7. The photo shows Mui Tsz Lam Road, taken on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. (Photo: Susu Cai)

Suspected Accidental Wilderness Straying

Rescuers on the scene described that Matthew Tsang was conscious but in a daze. When asked why he went up the mountain alone and didn’t seek help, he reportedly gave no response. Asked why he stayed near a stream, Tsang told rescuers, “Because there’s water to drink.” Regarding why he wasn’t dressed, he replied, “Because it’s very cold.” Rescuers speculated that Tsang’s clothes were soaked through due to earlier windy conditions and heavy rain, leading him to undress.

Rescue personnel immediately administered basic treatment, providing warm clothing and energy drinks. After an assessment, a Government Flying Service helicopter was summoned to transport Matthew Tsang to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital for treatment,” said Chow Cheuk-fung.

As reported by HK01, sources say Matthew Tsang, part of his school’s dragon boat team, claimed he went to his dragon boat practice site because he was “unhappy”. He ascended the mountain to “clear his mind” and fell asleep, but upon waking, he found himself lost in the darkness, resulting in him wandering “deeper and deeper”.

Matthew was lost and stuck in the woods for 8 days, and managed to survive using his strong will power and drinking water from the stream,” the boy’s mother, Amy Chan, wrote on Facebook.

Stressful but “Extremely Lucky”

Anson Cheng, founder of The Hong Kong Guardians, expressed that the boy’s discovery after seven days was “extremely lucky”.

“He had just his wallet and Octopus card, dressed in his school uniform and leather shoes. Surviving is tough in such conditions without wilderness skills,” he commented. “Being an athlete might have provided some advantage.”

Last year, Matthew Tsang served as the captain of his school’s dragon boat team, known for his cheerful personality. This year, he is a team member, frequently practicing near Sha Tin’s Shek Mun along the Shing Mun River, an area he is familiar with. His small boat is also stored there.

Matthew is familiar with Shek Mun due to his dragon boat training and takes pride in it. Pictured is the Shek Mun MTR station, taken on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. (Photo: Susu Cai)

Matthew Tsang left school at 12:46 PM on October 4 and traveled from Mong Kok East to Shek Mun via the Tuen Ma Line, with his Octopus card last used at 1:27 PM at the Shek Mun exit before he went missing.

His mother noted he had no phone or backpack with him and had been acting unusually recently, prompting visits to the doctor.

He actually suffered from stomach pain and acid reflux, causing insomnia and mental distress. I told him not to put so much pressure on himself, grades don’t matter, but he said he wasn’t pressured. It’s worse this year with the DSE approaching. He likes quiet, often going to the library and CD stores, as he’s into music,” Mrs. Tsang said.

In a letter following the incident, Diocesan Boys’ School Principal Ronnie Cheng Kay-yen implored parents and guardians to ensure they are “paying special attention to their children’s needs and emotional well-being during this period”. He also expressed the hope that the Tsang family be given space to deal with the incident.

“Special Notice Regarding Missing G12 Student Case” by Diocesan Boys’ School Principal Ronnie Cheng Kay-yen

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